European planemaker Airbus was close to finalising an Indian order for A350 XWB aircraft at the Paris air show on Wednesday after securing 114 orders for a revamped design competing with the Boeing 787.
Airbus is also working behind the scenes at the air show to win a re-order for more A380s from an existing Asian customer, an industry executive told Reuters. It was unclear whether a deal could be reached in time to be announced at Le Bourget.
The identity of the A350 buyer remained unclear after an official with Dubai-based Etihad Airways said it would order the plane. Industry executives at the show said the airline would do a deal but more likely for 12 of the older A330s and A340s.
The A350 deal would instead go to an Indian airline with Kingfisher, which has already bought the A380 superjumbo, seen favourite to buy the jet, industry executives said in Paris.
Airbus declined to comment but said its first commercial announcement of the day would be at 0830 GMT.
Airbus is also expected to firm up a deal this week with Singapore Airlines for 20 redesigned A350s. The order was first announced a year ago and has yet to be finalised, but Airbus is anxious to prevent Boeing poaching the business.
Airbus is pulling out all the stops at the Paris air show to recover momentum after falling significantly behind Boeing in the fastest-growing part of the market, the next generation of long-range mid-sized planes, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.
The Airbus A350 is five years behind Boeing and according to Airbus sales chief John Leahy, it needs to be better than the 787 to close the gap with the Boeing model, which lifted its backlog above 600 jets with a 50-plane ILFC order on Tuesday.
Airbus has been boosted this week by more A350 orders than expected as well as new orders for its A380 superjumbo after a miserable year of production delays and compensation payments.
The planemaker secured firm orders for 3 A380s from Qatar Airways, bringing its order book to 163, on Monday and struck preliminary deals for another 10 with Air France and Emirates.
The European planemaker, a subsidiary of EADS, also confirmed it had sold an A380 superjumbo to an unidentified VIP customer before the Le Bourget air show.
An industry executive said the buyer was from the Middle East. The double-decker plane is being offered to super-rich customers in a luxury version known as the Dream Palace.
Confirming the VIP order but without giving any clues to the name of the buyer, Airbus number two Fabrice Bregier told French radio that more important for Airbus was that some commercial clients were ordering extra sumperjumbo jets.